October 8, 2015 / 4:42 PM / 3 years ago

U.N. to audit its dealings with entities tied to alleged bribe scheme

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has ordered an audit of all dealings the organization had with two entities that are the subjects of a U.S. bribery probe, a U.N. spokesman said on Thursday.

David Ng (Ng Lap Seng), Chairman of the Sun Kian IP Group Foundation sits at the High-level Multi-Stakeholder Strategy Forum in Macau, China in this handout photo taken on August 25, 2015, provided by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation. REUTERS/United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation/Handout via Reuters

Ban asked the Office of Internal Oversight Services to audit all of the U.N.’s interactions with the Global Sustainability Foundation and the Sun Kian Ip Group, as well as the use of any funds received from them, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Speaking to reporters at U.N. headquarters, Dujarric said Ban was “committed to ensuring that funds received from such private entities were handled properly, according to relevant U.N. rules and regulations.”

There “will be no tolerance for any corruption at the United Nations or in the name of the United Nations,” he added.

In a complaint filed in federal court in New York on Tuesday, U.S. prosecutors said more than $1.3 million in bribes were received from Chinese businessmen, including billionaire Macau real estate developer Ng Lap Seng.

John Ashe, a former U.N. ambassador from Antigua and Barbuda who was president of the U.N. General Assembly from 2013 to 2014, was one of six people charged and arrested.

Prosecutors said some of the bribes were arranged through Sheri Yan, chief executive officer of a New York-based organization, and Heidi Park, its finance director, who were also arrested.

The organization was not named, but the Global Sustainability Foundation website lists Yan and Park as holding those positions.

Ng, also known as David Ng, heads Macau-based Sun Kian Ip Group. Its foundation arm lists several diplomats, including Ashe and Francis Lorenzo, a deputy U.N. ambassador from the Dominican Republic, as holding leadership positions.

Dujarric said the Sun Kian Ip Group Foundation gave $1.5 million to the U.N. Fund for South-South Cooperation in May. He said an internal examination showed no irregularities with that money.

“All disbursed funds were tracked and accounted for, and there is no evidence that any funds received ... were misdirected or misappropriated,” he said.

Regarding the allegations against Ashe, Dujarric noted that all funds in accounts of the president of the General Assembly are subject to U.N. rules and regulations and can be audited, even though that post is not on the U.N. payroll and the persons who hold it are working on behalf of their own governments.

He said that what Ashe and others are accused of doing appeared to be “outside of the realm” of the U.N. financial system. Dujarric added that the U.N. has not been contacted by the U.S. attorneys so far.

The world body has pledged to cooperate with U.S. authorities if contacted by them.

Ng’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, had no immediate comment, but has said previously his client committed no crime. Ashe’s lawyer, Robert Van Lierop, has said his client plans to fight the U.S. charges.

“Ambassador Lorenzo welcomes all audits, as transparency is the best policy for those affiliated with dealings in, and for, the United Nations,” Brian Bieber, Lorenzo’s lawyer, said.

Lawyers for the other defendants did not respond to requests for comment.

The foundations have not have commented despite requests for reaction to the allegations and attempts to reach them on Thursday were unsuccessful.

Additional reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Diane Craft

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